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Re: Schonfield, sales, and scholarship

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  • Lewis Reich
    ... Neither Benjamin Disraeli nor Barry Goldwater can properly be said to have done a number . Disraeli was baptized by his father at a young age when he
    Message 1 of 11 , Jul 3, 1998
      On 3 Jul 98, at 8:30, Tom Simms wrote:

      > Oh? so he did the Goldwater number after all...well, well.

      Neither Benjamin Disraeli nor Barry Goldwater can properly be said to
      have "done a number". Disraeli was baptized by his father at a young
      age when he himself could hardly be said to have engineered it as a
      stratagem. Barry Goldwater's father, Baron, married an Episcopalian. By
      Jewish religious law he was not Jewish, and neither was his upbringing.

      Lewis
    • Mahlon H. Smith
      ... Mike, Tom, et al: I am not intimate enough with HJS & his detractors to give a definitive explanation of his shunning by NT scholars. But my own
      Message 2 of 11 , Jul 3, 1998
        Mike Grondin wrote:

        > Why Schoenfield never fared as well within the academic community as
        > Pagels and Crossan, e.g., may very well have to do with his adopting a
        > "stand-offish" attitude - I don't know, but Tom seems to suggest as
        > much. I can't really understand this attitude myself, but perhaps it had
        > something to do with his background or circumstances, or with the
        > response that his 1966 work met with.
        >

        Mike, Tom, et al:

        I am not intimate enough with HJS & his detractors to give a definitive
        explanation of his shunning by NT scholars. But my own neo-Orthodox
        education in the 60s & experience for the past dozen+ years in the JS
        enables me to make an educated guess.

        First of all, HJS's work had the character of a public expose. And
        conservative scholars have a distinct distaste for having their privates
        printed on the cover of the Daily News where they can be oggled by every
        commuter. Thus, the knee-jerk reaction of academics in the case of both
        HJS & the JS was to cover their bare bottoms. If HJS's theses had been
        published in a form that was unattractive to average readers, with
        learned comments on traditional sources & other scholars' theses, I am
        pretty certain it would have had its advocates in academic circles, just
        as Crossan does. Crossan could get away with publishing his
        *Revolutionary Biography* because he first published his massive
        scholarly *HJ: Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant* which few
        non-scholars would have the patience to wade through. Crossan learned
        from HJS's case.

        Second, orthodox forces controlled more academic castles in the 60s than
        they do today. So, there was always an ample supply of sharpshooters to
        pick off anyone who attempted a siege or lead a defection. And several
        of them were skilled popularizers themselves. No sooner had SGF Brandon
        published his massive scholarly argument for Jesus the Zealot than Oscar
        Cullmann undercut him with a lucid common-sense popular tract that made
        such a hypothesis sound ridiculous. So, many like me read Cullmann first
        & never bothered reading Brandon, at least not until his book was long
        out of print. Morton Smith's Jesus the Magician met a similar fate. JAT
        Robinson escaped only because he abandoned his *Honest to God* campaign
        to become spokesman for the Anglican right. But his championship of
        radical theses in that direction (e.g., The Priority of John) eventually
        discredited him with moderate scholars.

        Had Bob Funk published his *Honest to Jesus* before convening a seminar
        of academic colleagues to debate the issues in public, I bet he would
        have been effectively marginalized by the likes of LT Johnson, B
        Witherington, & NT Wright: all skilled in non-academic public debate.
        Funk's decision to serve as interpreter of the JS until our research was
        complete was a brilliant tactical ploy in the battle of the media. The
        spectacle of a group of scholars doing what scholars are supposed to do
        & reaching a relative "consensus" (gotta qualify that word again) on
        conclusions that are not part of the "tradition" familiar to people in
        the pews, has enabled the JS to withstand the slings & arrows &
        outrageous barbs of individual elitists. For an individual radical can
        easily be dismissed as a kook; but polls are always an effective tool
        for influencing public opinion. And so far the JS critics have not been
        very adept in organizing their own.

        In the 50s & 60s the cracks in the (neo)orthodox fortress of infallible
        biblical truth were already quite evident to anyone within academia (as
        I was). The castle almost crumbled when the 1964 Drew Colloquium (which
        I helped host during my senior year as a seminarian) spawned the Death
        of God theology. But it weathered that storm when the Death of God
        theologians decided to all go their separate ways. The strategic mistake
        of critical scholars like HS, Morton Smith & SGF Brandon is that they
        preferred to play the role of David single-handedly challenging the
        Philistines, than to pool their resources in a common project that
        respected their different viewpoints. The latter strategy is largely
        responsible for the JS's longevity. Funk was wise enough to realize that
        it's relatively easy to swat one gad-fly; it's a lot harder to eliminate
        a swarm of hornets.

        Shalom!

        Mahlon

        --

        *********************

        Mahlon H. Smith,
        Associate Professor
        Department of Religion
        Rutgers University
        New Brunswick NJ

        http://religion.rutgers.edu/mhsmith.html
      • Anne Quast
        ... I m not against book sales. I think I m just against the idea that a book needs to contain some sort of scandal (or dare I say sex) in order to sell. A
        Message 3 of 11 , Jul 3, 1998
          >
          >>Perhaps it is the idea that there is something hidden or to
          >>quote logium 17 GTH, "Jesus said, 'I shall give you what no eye has seen
          >>and what no ear has heard and what no hand has touched and what has never
          >>occurred to the human mind.'" People like the idea of exclusivity or
          >>scandal. This is what sells books.
          >

          > Are you against book sales? Something has to carry the freight of
          > all the academic "on the record" stuff that Glazes Eyes Over. Most
          > presses do academic publishing as fill-in. Crosstalk has become a
          > morass of views of text analyses. Yet the same crowd can't even do
          > their own researching the Archives. Deliver me!


          I'm not against book sales. I think I'm just against the idea that a book
          needs to contain some sort of scandal (or dare I say sex) in order to sell.
          A book must also be readable. I have problems with Barbara Thierings
          "Jesus the Man" since almost two-thirds of it is appendices. It's almost
          as bad as "James the Just in the Habakkuk Pesher" where almost half of each
          page is taken up with footnotes. This makes it difficult to read.

          >
          >>As you write of the dependence or independence of Thomas, how do you
          >>classify logium 102? Jesus said, "Woe to the pharisees, for they are like
          >>a dog sleeping the mager of oxen, for neither does he eat nor does he let
          >>the oxen eat." This is a fable usually attributed to Aesop! Who wrote it
          >>first? A number of the fables we attribute to Aesop are said to have been
          >>written during the first half of the first century ACE.
          >
          > Now THAT"S the best thing in your post. We tried to dig into these
          > correspondences but never did. I keep mentioning how and when
          > Petronius knew of the teachings of Jesus, a point allowing early
          > datings of all the accounts. What's the use?
          >
          Some of my research states that a number of the fables were written during
          the first part of the first century ACE. They were satires on the
          political situation in Rome. Does the dog-in-the-manger fit here?
        • Mike Grondin
          Anne- I don t know whether Barbara Thiering did any better with Jesus the Man than she did in Jesus and the Riddle of the Dead Sea Scrolls , which I read
          Message 4 of 11 , Jul 4, 1998
            Anne-

            I don't know whether Barbara Thiering did any better with "Jesus the
            Man" than she did in "Jesus and the Riddle of the Dead Sea Scrolls",
            which I read some number of years ago, but I can tell you that I was not
            favorably impressed with the latter. What struck me about it was not so
            much that her main thesis was so unusual, as that she spent so little
            effort arguing for it. One would think that, if someone has an unusual
            theory, the main effort would be in marshalling support for it. Instead,
            Thiering seemed to be more concerned with the internal consistency of
            the theory, which, while important, would seem secondary in such a case.
            I kept waiting for her to say, "And here's why you should believe in my
            theory..." She never did, to my recollection, which is probably why I
            was so frustrated with the book, in spite of the fact that it contained
            some useful factual information in those voluminous appendices.

            Same basic complaint would go for such as Earl Doherty (who claims that
            there was no historical Jesus). If you've got an unusual theory (and I
            do, by the way, so these same comments apply to me), your number one
            task is to make that theory plausible - not just internally consistent
            or "possible" - but plausible. If you can't do that, you shouldn't
            expect to be taken seriously by scholars, and you won't be.

            Obviously, I don't believe that Schonfield's writings are of the same
            order as those above-mentioned, in spite of the fact that he also is
            rarely mentioned in respectable bibliographies. I think that, in his
            case, it's more an accident of timing and strategy than a lack of
            quality work.

            Mike
            ____________________________________
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